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How do you leave a conversation graciously?

The scenario: You’re at a business meet & greet event and feel stuck with a new person you met who is quite the talker.

It happens to all of us. But, knowing how to leave a conversation graciously and courteously puts you in the driver’s seat.

First, at business socials , receptions and networking events, remember that it is courteous not to monopolize someone’s time. You don’t want someone to feel trapped in a conversation with you. In addition, you want the other person to feel free to mingle with others, as well. (After all, the word mingle means to “circulate.”)

Very often though, it’s actually harder to leave the conversation than getting the conversation started. (How to Make Small Talk). So, how do you leave a conversation graciously and courteously so you can be intentional in meeting others in the room?  Here are three ways to extricate yourself from the conversation without appearing rude or hurting the person’s feelings.

  1. To begin with, try to take control of the conversation. You can’t exit the conversation until you take control of the conversation. To do this, wait until there’s a lull in the conversation. Then, acknowledge what you learned in the conversation and say something cordial, such as, “Bill, I’ve really enjoyed learning about your work at XYZ company. But, I have a few more hellos to make before the dinner begins. Would you excuse me? I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.” Give Bill a warm smile and extend your hand for a handshake. Then, segue off.

  2. Also, have a “wingman” or “wingwoman.”  If you’re lucky enough to have a coworker or friend at the event with you, vow beforehand to look out for each other. In other words, if you see the other person captured by a long-winded talker, you swoop in and politely interrupt them and say to your coworker that there is someone who just came in that you want to introduce to him. Then, to be gracious, your coworker expresses thanks to the person, smiles and extends the hand for a handshake before walking away with the wingman/wingwoman.

  3. Introduce the person to someone else. This strategy works best if you learned enough about the person to feel he or she would enjoy meeting another person you know who has mutual interests. “Bill, I’m going to mingle a bit more, but I’d like to first introduce you to someone. [Facilitate the introduction]. “Okay, I’m going to let you two get acquainted.”

Of course, in any of the above scenarios, you may also ask for the person’s business card before exiting the conversation. Or, suggest a future plan to stay in touch such as LinkedIn.

Part of good business etiquette is being able to wrap up a conversation politely. It’s tricky, but not impossible. So, rather than looking at your watch every two minutes when a conversation is trailing on and on, use these strategies to help you leave a conversation with grace and tact.

Rachel Wagner is a licensed business etiquette consultant, trainer and speaker. As an authority on etiquette and protocol issues facing today’s global business arena, she shares engaging and interactive content with corporate clients from a variety of industries across the United States. She is the etiquette expert for Fox23 in Tulsa and has been quoted or featured in local and national media outlets including Forbes, Money and the Washington Post.

Photo: Unsplash – Yogi Pumama